4/5 stars on Goodreads
|The Neanderthal Box Set by Penny Reid|
I’ve previously read and loved the Winston Brothers series by Penny Reid, so I jumped to download this box set when it was offered for free a while ago. It contains books 1 and 1.5 from her Knitting in the City series, three follow-up novellas with the same characters, and a couple of preview chapters from Reid’s other books. So it’s well worth the expense, even if you pay for it.
The first book, Neanderthal Seeks Human, introduces the main couple, Janie and Quinn, plus all the other characters in the series, a group of women that belong to a same knitting group in Chicago. It’s a fun and not entirely typical romance. Reid has a great knack with writing characters that tend towards unique way of thinking and regarding the world with understanding and love, and making the other characters accept them just the way they are.
Janie is a math-wizard with a habit of collecting data and blurting it out in stressful situations with absolutely zero filters. Sometimes they relate to the situation, but most of the time the workings of her brain baffle people around her. Quinn is different though and he finds her mind fascinating. A great basis for their romance.
Quinn is a head of a private security firm and insanely wealthy. He becomes Janie’s boss, but for the better part of the book she has no idea of it and believes him to be a regular security guard—a plot-line that dragged on a bit too long. The Neanderthal mentioned in the title is Janie, who sees herself as one, because she’s larger than other people with an odd mind. It’s not until the second book that we really learn the reason for her habit. It’s an emotional coping mechanism she’s learned in childhood to deal with physically and emotionally absent parents.
It’s a good book, but long. Really long. According to the author’s own notes, it’s over a hundred thousand words, which is about twenty thousand more than a regular romance novel. It would be fine, if there were side plots to fill the pages, but it’s really just the two of them working towards the happily ever after. There are several side characters introduced, but despite the length of the book(s), they remain distant and two-dimensional. Some of them get their own books later in the series, but Steve the co-worker would’ve deserved a better treatment than he got.
The second book, which is marked as an in-between novel, is equally long. Neanderthal Marries Human starts with Quinn proposing to Janie and then follows the subsequent wedding planning. The actual plans are in the side-lines though. It’s more about family bonds and healing. Quinn has been cast out by his family, so Janie sees the wedding as an opportunity to bring them back together, and maybe gain a family that she’s never really had. It’s sweet and touching at times, but—again—really long.
The three short stories at least live up to their name. First one is about the honeymoon, where Janie decides to rid the tropical island of invasive toad species, much to Quinn’s bemusement. The other two are about Janie getting pregnant and the latter stages of her pregnancy. I haven’t read the other books in the series, so I don’t know if the child is ever born during the course of it, but that might be an amusing story too.
All in all, this was an entertaining package. However, I don’t feel the need to follow it up by reading the rest of the series, with maybe the exception of the last book that has Quinn’s best friend as the hero. I liked him. But there’s a Winston Brothers spin-off coming soon with Cletus as the main character. I’ll definitely read that.